Government Issues Permit Extension as Parties are Ordered to Mediate

Maya Public of SATTIIMocThe Supreme Court of Belize was set to hear an application for a post-judgment injunction this afternoon filed by Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) and the four Maya communities of Graham Creek, Conejo, Crique Sarco and Midway against the Government parties managing the Sarstoon Temash National Park and U.S. Capital Energy.

The court’s perfected order asked the Government to seek to obtain free, prior and informed consent before going ahead with extending the oil prospecting company’s permit.

The Government complied – sort of. It determined that the village where the drill pad is located, Sunday Wood, would be most affected by any extension.

Of course, that community has been on record as supporting oil drilling, and reaffirmed that support. Armed with that, the Government went ahead and granted the extension to U.S. Capital on June 10.

It’s a cheeky move, and even though her hands were effectively tied, Justice Michelle Arana let them have it in court today.

She said that while the Government is to be commended for starting discussions with Sunday Wood in the spirit of the judgment, its letter – that the case’s claimants are to be consulted – was not followed.

She therefore ordered court-connected mediation under Rule 73 (3) of the Civil Procedure Rules.  Reaction was as intense as the courtroom’s atmosphere was tense.  First we hear from attorney for SATIIM and the Maya communities, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay.

vlcsnap-2014-06-16-23h01m35s122Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay- Attorney for SATIIM

“This court granted an order and it said very clearly that we must consult with SATIIM and the villagers before issuing any new permit or extension.  We applied for an injunction.  But the government went and issued a permit without consultation with my clients, and so, it came to court saying that they had no jurisdiction and secondly, that the facts on the ground had changed and that therefore, the injunction should not be granted.  Well, the court does have jurisdiction.  Second is that the court said that the letter of a Courts Order has not been complied with”.

Senior Counsel Denys Barrow, appearing for the Government, seemed to quibble with our view that the court was ordering his clients to sit down with SATIIM and the four Maya communities.

U.S. Capital Energy is once more “monkey in the middle,” proceeding with activities in the Park without a clear understanding of its role in the process.

vlcsnap-2014-06-16-23h27m29s177Their attorney, Michael Peyrefitte, looked a frustrated figure when we spoke to him.

Reporter:  “The court has asked that all sides sit down to connect the mediate because it is clear that…”

Michael Peyrefitte:  “The court has not asked; The court has ordered”.

No timeline has been set for the mediation.  However, the two parties will take their battle to the Court of Appeal in its next session.

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